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, the largest river (by volume), the Amazon River, the longest mountain range, the Andes, the driest desert, Atacama, the largest rainforest, the Amazon Rainforest, the highest capital city, La Paz, Bolivia, and the world's southernmost city, Ushuaia, Argentina In the high reaches of the Andes mountains, along the border between Bolivia and Peru, lies one of the highest regions inhabited by people anywhere in the world. Here in the "altiplano" farmers raise sheep, llamas and alpacas, as they have for thousands of years. But unlike most farmlands, the altiplano is surrounded by jagged mountains, volcanic peaks that drop steeply down to deserts in some places, to rain forests in others, and on the western side, to a deep trench of the Pacific Ocean. It's home to some of the planet's largest volcanoes, and in the far south along the coast of Chile, large ice sheets are commonplace. The Amazon River Basin is home to the largest rainforest on Earth. The basin -roughly the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States -- covers some 40% of the South American continent. Reflecting environmental conditions as well as past human influence, the Amazon is made up of ecosystems and vegetation types including rainforests, seasonal forests, deciduous forests, flooded forests, and savannas. The basin is drained by the Amazon River, The largest of the world's rivers in terms of volume of water discharged into the sea is the Amazon. The river system is the lifeline of the forest and its history plays an important part in the development of its rainforests The South American Eastern Highlands lie on the eastern side of the continent. These highlands belong to the older geologic period almost of the same time as that of the Appalachian Highlands. They are divided into north and the south sections. The northern one is known as Guiana Highlands which consists of a vast plateau, marked by deep gorges, tropical rain forests, and home to Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world.
The southern section known as the Brazilian Highlands, about 800 miles in length and includes several mountain ranges. The Plains lowland that lie in between the two highlands. These plains are drained by the might River Amazon (Rio Amazona) in the north and river Paraguay-Paraná in the south. The Amazon flows through the thick equatorial evergreen forest. The ParaguayParaná basin covers the fertile plains of Pampas. Venezuela´s rugged Llanos are one of the world´s richest tropical grasslands. This large and very fertile plain is located in eastern and central Colombia, and central and southern Venezuela and is drained by the Orinoco River and its many tributaries. It's approximately 225,000 sq. miles in size. This mostly flat, grassy “cowboy country”, which is shared with Colombia, is teeming with wildlife, with more than 100 species of mammals and over 300 species of birds. A catfish called the lau-lau, which weighs up to 330 pounds lives in this region and is considered a culinary delicacy. Pampas is a word of Quechua origin that means “a plain without trees”. The unrelenting flat Pampas is Argentina’s agricultural heartland and home of the gaucho. Famed for its many cattle ranches, this large plain in the southern part of the continent extends for almost 1,000 miles. Located between the Andes and the Atlantic Ocean, and about 1,000 miles in length, Patagonia stretches south from the Rio Negro River in southern Argentina to Tierra del Fuego and the Strait of Magellan and is one of the less populated regions in the world. It's mostly rugged, barren land not suitable for extensive farming, but compatible with sheep raising. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela are the most prosperous countries. Seven independent countries are classified as lower middle-income countries and Guyana is the poorest South American Country. South America’s population includes Native Americans (Amerindians) and people of European and black African origin. Many people are of mixed descent. History In the 16th century, Spanish explorers in the Americas encountered two great civilizations —one in Mesoamerica (the territory controlled by the Aztecs and the Mayas at the time of the conquest) and the other in South America (the territory in the central Andean region under Inca rule). The people of these regions accounted for many tribes and nations, with achievements that included art, cities and strong foundations of economic, political and social organization. The Aztec empire stretched between the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts of Mesoamerica while the Maya kingdom occupied the eastern part of Mesoamerica The Inca empire, with its capital at Cuzco, covered a large portion of South America in the 15th and the first quarter of the 16th century. The empire stretched nearly 2,500 miles down the west coast of South America, and covered coastal desert, high mountains, and low-lying jungle. It covered most of modern-day Peru, part of Ecuador, and Bolivia, northwest Argentina, and the greater part of Chile. To control such a huge area, the Incas built roads, including both mountainous and coastal routes. This road system was key to farming success as it allowed distribution of foodstuffs over long distances. Agriculture was am important part of life and farmers used sophisticated methods of cultivation, and by the time of the Spanish conquest, the ancients Americans
were some of the greatest plant cultivators in the world. Maize from Mesoamerica and potatoes from the Andes were some of their contributions to the European diet. To get the highest yield from their crops, the Incas used terracing and irrigation methods on hillsides in the highlands. Building terraces meant that they could use more land for cultivation, and also help to resist erosion of the land by wind and rain. Maize was the central food in the diet along with beans and squash. The inhabitants of the Andean region developed more than half the agricultural products that the world eats today. Among these are more than 20 varieties of corn; 240 varieties of potato; as well as one or more varieties of squash, beans, peppers, peanuts, and cassava (a starchy root). Quinoa (in the language of Incans, means “mother of cereals”)is a cereal grain is a crop domesticated in the high plains area around lake Titicaca. By far the most important of these was the potato. The Incas planted the potato, which is able to withstand heavy frosts, as high as 15,000 feet. At these heights the Incas could use the freezing night temperatures and the heat of the day to alternately freeze and dry the potatoes until all the moisture had been removed. The Incas then reduced the potato to a light flour. They cultivated corn up to an altitude of 13,500 feet and consumed it fresh, dried, and popped. They also made it into an alcoholic beverage known as saraiaka or chicha. Put this in a sidebar or box The manioc tuber, or cassava root, was another important staple of the natives. This carbohydrate-rich food that was easy to propagate but difficult to process, at least for the bitter variety, which is poisonous when raw. To detoxify manioc, the tubers had to be peeled and grated and the pulp put into long, supple cylinders—called tipitis—made of woven plant fibers. Each tube was then hung with a heavy weight at the bottom, which compressed the pulp and expressed the poisonous juice. The pulp could then be removed, washed and roasted, rendering it safe to eat. The product was a toasted, coarse meal or flour known as farinha de mandioc.. Starch settling out from the extracted juice was heated on a flat surface, causing individual starch grains to pop open and clump together into small, round granules called tapioca. The extracted juice, boiled down to remove the poison, was used as the basis of the sauce known as tucupi. Manioc meal became many things in the hands of the Indian women. Pulverized meal was mixed with ground fish to produce a concoction called paçoka, or paçoca. For the children, small, sun-dried cakes called carimã were prepared. There was a porridge or paste known as mingau, and thin, crisp snacks called beijus, made of either tapioca flour or dough from a non-poisonous, or sweet variety of manioc known as macaxeira or aipim. These sweet manioc tubers, which are somewhat fibrous but considerably easier to prepare, were also pared, boiled for several hours to soften them and eaten like potatoes By the 16th century, rumors of gold and other riches attracted the Spanish to the area. Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro explored south from Panama, reaching Inca territory. It was clear that they had reached a wealthy land with prospects of great treasure, and after one more expedition in 1529, Pizarro travelled to Spain and received royal approval to conquer the region and be its viceroy.
On the other side of the continent, Pedros Alvares Cabra set sail from Portugal in 1500. He arrived on the coast of Brazil and claimed the region for Portugal. Finding the warm climate and rich soil ideal for planting sugar cane, the Portuguese built large plantations and brought slaves from West Africa. Shiploads of Euorpean settlers poured in to make their fortune. Many grew coffee in the rich soil around San Paulo and Brazil became the foremost coffee producer in the world. Gold mines flourished in the interior, and a new rubber industry sprang up in the Amazon. Cattle ranches sprang up to feed developing mining centers. Brazil soon began exporting coffee, rubber, cocoa, and cattle. After a violent colonial history the regions in South America gained independence from Spain. Today there are countries of great contrasts. In each one, there are wealthy and cosmopolitan cities, but there are also areas where many people live in conditions of great poverty. Significant ecological and environmental issues, from the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, loss of plant and animal species, and air and water pollution, are being addressed. Rich in natural resources with growing economies, there is great potential for the future The Countries and Their Cuisine Venezuela Venezuela is located on the northern edge of South America, and bordered by Guyana, Brazil, Colombia and the southern waters of the Caribbean Sea. The explorer Christopher Columbus, on his third voyage sailing for Spain landed on its coast in 1498. Venezuela declared itself independent of Spain in 1811 but retained a strong Spanish influence. The country is one of the world’s top 10 producers of oil, which has helped it to develop its economy. Due to the diversity in the landscape, Venezuela has an ability to grow a wide variety of crops. Its main crop is sugarcane, followed by tropical fruits such as bananas and oranges. Because of its long Caribbean coastline Venezuela is as much a Caribbean country as it is a South American one. Venezuela has a strong fishing industry, famous for sardines, shrimps, clams, mussels, crabs, and tuna. Arepas are the main staple of Venezuelan cuisine. These are thick, flattened balls of fried or baked corn or wheat flour. These flatbreads can be filled with meats, cheeses, jelly, or vegetables. Favorite fillings include tuna or chicken salad, shredded beef, or ham and cheese. Arepas usually accompany Venezuela’s national dish, pabellon criollo. This is a hearty dish that includes black beans and shredded beef seasoned with onions, garlic, green peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro. This is served atop a mound of rice alongside a fried egg and strips of fried plantain. White cheese is grated over the top. Hallaca is a special dish served only during the holidays. A packet of cornmeal dough is steamed in a wrapping of palm leaves with a filling of pork, chicken, and beef, and mixed with olives, capers, raisins, tomatoes peppers, nuts and spices. These were first made by servants trying to use up leftovers from their plantation master’s tables. Oranges, pineapple, papayas, strawberries, passion fruit, watermelons, limes and avocados are plentiful. Among the unusual foods in this country are logarto sancocho (lizard soup) and fried ants, considered a special treat.
Brazil Brazil covers nearly half of South America and is dissected by both the Equator and Tropic of Capricorn. Brazil is bordered by Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and the Atlantic Ocean. The country’s main regions are the Amazon Basin, the dry northeast where farmers rear cattle, and the southeast, Brazil’s most populated region. Its population is the largest in Latin America and constitutes about half of the population in South America. With nearly all of its population living in cities and towns, Brazil is one of the most urbanized and industrialized countries in Latin America. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are among the ten largest cities in the world. Yet parts of Brazil's Amazon region, which has some of the world's most extensive wilderness areas, are sparsely inhabited by indigenous peoples still in the process of coming into contact with the modern world. Until 1822 the country was a Portuguese colony and even today the official language of Brazil is Portuguese. The Portuguese and Spanish brought African slaves to South America, and nowhere is their influence stronger than in Brazil. Dende (palm oil), peppers okra and coconut milk, staples of West African cooking, became firmly established on the Brazilian palate. North African cooking traditions included coffee, dried fruits and pastries. Brazil's national dish, feijoada (literally "big bean" stew), is said to have originated during slave times. Originally feijoada contained inexpensive and less desirable cuts of meat such as tripe and pigs feet as Brazilian slaves had only the leftovers of the master's table for themselves. Today feijoada consists of a variety of meats slowly cooked with black beans and condiments. A feijoada completa or "complete feijoada" is accompanied by rice, fresh orange slices, a side dish of peppery onion sauce, chopped greens, such as collards, and farinha (toasted manioc flour). In Bahia, in northeastern Brazil, African presence is found in dishes based on peanuts, yams, dendê oil and coconut milk. The Portuguese influence shows in the rich, sweet egg breads that are served at nearly every meal, and in the seafood dishes that blend assorted seafood’s with coconut and other native fruits and vegetables. The cuisine is a fascinating blend of influences from native South Americans, Portugal, Africa and Europe. Seafood stews predominate in the North, while the South is the land of churrascos. They make great use of their rich assortment of tubers, squash and beans. Manioc (cassava), a fibrous root that requires a great deal of processing before it can be eaten, is at the heart of Brazilian vegetable consumption. Manioc, is the 'flour' of the region, and is eaten in one form or another at nearly every. Brazilian food, unlike the cuisines of many of the surrounding countries, favors the sweet rather than the hot The Guinas Guyana (formerly British Guiana), Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana), and French Guiana, a French overseas department, are situated in northeastern South America. Together they are called “the Guianas” and the influences are varied. The Dutch were among the first to settle in Guyana on the upper northeast end of South America. With the Dutch, many Germans and Austrians also settled in the area, which added to the cuisine of this region. Peas, rice, and bread are staples in the diet of many Guyanese. Locally grown vegetables such as cassava, plantains, and breadfruit, are widely consumed, but are available only in season. A popular festive food is “cook-up”
which is any kind of meat prepared in coconut milk and served with rice and beans. Like the Caribbean, many traditional dishes in Guyana are very spicy, with curries and the habanero pepper, or Scotch bonnet, which is native to the region. There are also influences from India and Africa in the cuisine. Suriname is more prosperous and has a diversity of ethnic influences including Indonesian, Creole, Chinese, Indian, European and America. The Indonesian population has contributed a number of spicy meat and vegetables side dishes, nasi goring (fried rice) and bami goring (fried noodles). From the Creole population has come pom (ground tayer roots and poultry), pastei (chicken pie with vegetables) and peanut soup, plus Indian curries and Chinese influences. French Guiana is the only non-independent country on the South American mainland. The French used it as a penal colony between 1852 and 1939, which included the infamous Devil's Island. In 1947 it became an overseas department of France. It is governed by French law and the French constitution, and enjoys French customs, currency and holidays. Colombia Located in the northwest corner of the South American continent, it is the only country in South America with both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. Colombia also has international borders with five Latin American nations: Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador. Columbia’s retained a strong Spanish influence. Coffee is Colombia’s leading agricultural crop. With a coastline in both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, seafood makes a major impact on the cuisine, along with chicken, pork, potato, rice, beans and soup. Interesting regional dishes include: ajiaco, a specialty from Bogota, this potato based soup is accompanied by chicken, maize and served with cream, capers, and chunks of avocado, hormiga culona (a sophisticated dish, unique to Santander, consisting largely of fried ants); and lechona, awhole suckling pig, spit-roasted and stuffed with rice, which is a specialty of Tolima. Ecuador The name comes from the Spanish word meaning “equator” and sits directly on the Equator. It is bordered by Colombia, Peru and the Pacific Ocean and includes the Galápagos Islands. Ecuador is renowned for its ceviche, made with bitter orange juice and chilies. The Afro Ecuadorians along the northern coast enjoy seafood seasoned with coconut milk. Peanuts and bananas are staples on the lower-coast regions. Corn and potato pancakes and soups, as well as grilled cuy (guinea pig), are staples further inland along the Andes. Also, known for its fabulous exotic fruits, high quality fish and seafood, and the countless varieties of Andean potatoes. Across the country national and regional dishes including lemon-marinated shrimp, toasted corn, and pastries stuffed with spiced meats. The core of the Ecuadorian diet is rice, potatoes, and meat, beef and chicken throughout the country and pork in the Sierra. Foods are cooked in achiote oil or lard. Refrito, a fried mixture containing chopped onions, green peppers, tomato, achiote and salt and/or garlic, is added to many cooked dishes like sofrito. Meats are often seasoned with a spicy aji sauce. Aji is a national delicacy and staple of Ecuadorian cuisine, found on most tables. Ecuador’s specialties are fresh soups including Locro soup (cheese, avocado and potato). Other popular dishes include lomo salteado (thin sliced steak,
covered with onions and tomatoes) and chocio (grilled Andean corn) sold by street vendors. Peru Peru, just to the south of the Equator is located on the western coast of South America. It is bordered by Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, and the Pacific Ocean. Behind the dry coastal plain of Peru lie the Andes Mountains, which contain active volcanoes and high plateaus between the ranges. East of the Andes are plains covered by rainforests. This “land of the Incas” is the world’s potato capital, with more than three hunderd varieties and colors (including purple, blue, yellow and shades of brown to pink), as well as various sizes, textures and flavors. Many dishes are served with boiled potatoes. This tuber, in addition to rice, chicken, pork, lamb, and fish comprise the basic ingredient from which most Peruvian dishes originate. Most corn and beans would not grow in the Andes Mountains because of the cold and short growing season; thus, the main staple grown by the Incas and Indians was the potato. The Indians also grew quinoa and the grain kiwicha which grows at high altitudes and produces small seeds, very rich in protein and used by the Incas to supplement their diet. The areas surrounding the Pacific Ocean, the Amazon River and Lake Titicaca have abundant seafood and turtles. Ceviche comes with many different flavor variations, served with boiled potato, sweet potato or cancha (toasted corn kernels). Meats are served in a variety of ways. Butifarras is a sandwich with Peruvian ham and spicy sauce. Carapulcra has pork, chicken, yellow potatoes, chiles, peanuts and cumin. Aji de gallina is a peppery chicken served in a creamy, yellow, spicy nut based sauce. Seco de cabrito is goat marinated with chichi de jora (a fermentedmaize drink) or beer, cilantro, and garlic. Chaiona is cured lamb, alpaca or llama. Grilled or fried guinea pig (cuy) is a favorite in the highlands. The cuisines flavor is spicy and sweet and it varies by region. Some Peruvian chile peppers are not spicy but give color to sauces. Rice often accompanies dishes in Peruvian. Bolivia The landlocked country of Bolivia is located in west-central South America, and bordered by Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile. Due to the average elevation in Bolivia, many people refer to the country as the "Tibet of the Americas". The Andes that run through Bolivia are some of the highest and most remote regions found anywhere in South America. Lake Titicaca and surrounding streams, and rivers offer fresh trout and other fishes. Bolivia is known for its Saltenas and Empanadas which are meat or vegetable pies, Other traditional dishes include Majao, rice dish with eggs, beef and fried banana, Silpancho, meat served with rice and potatoes, and Pacumutu, a rice dish with grilled beef, fried yucca and cheese. Spicy sauces and condiments made with ajis, tomatoes and spices are served with stews and soups such as chairo – with cured lamb or alpaca, chuno (freezed-dried potatoes), corn and camote – or saice (meat soup with onions and tomatoes). Bolivian beer is popular, but the most favored local drink is chicha cochabambina, a very potent corn drink. Paraguay Although landlocked, Paraguay is bordered and criss-crossed by navigable rivers. Corn and manioc (cassava) are the cornerstones of the cuisine in Paraguay. Around these two
staples they add many grains as well as a variety of meats and vegetables. Other principal food crops included beans, peanuts, sorghum, sweet potatoes, and rice. Many types of beans are grown in Paraguay, including lima beans, French beans, and peas. The most popular dishes are based on corn, meat, milk and cheese. The local drink preferred by Paraguayans is locally produced dark rum, an alcoholic beverage made from sugar cane. Chile Chile is located on the western and southwestern coast of South America, and bordered by Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, and by the Pacific Ocean. Chile is often regarded as the most European of all the South American. Chile’s agriculture is famed in Western supermarkets, with major exports of fruit and wine to the United States and Europe. Spanish priests first introduced vines into Chile in the sixteenth century because they needed wine for religious celebrations. Vines were planted in the central valley around Santiago and grew well. In the 1850s, the Spanish vines were replaced by French varieties and winemaking became a serious industry. Historically, Chile has grown mostly the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, but recent successes with Merlot, Carmenere and Syrah grapes make a wider range of wines available. Muscatel grapes are grown in the northern region, but mainly for the production of pisco, the national drink. Because of its location in the southern Hemisphere the fruits grown there are ready for export in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter season. Fruits exported to the United States include apples, avocados, peaches, nectarines, kiwifruits, plums, pears, blueberries and cherries, and the main vegetables are garlic, asparagus, and onions. Chile does not have the beef industry of Argentina, but it does have great commercial seafood. Chili’s long coast makes it a natural for seafood such as abalone, eel, scallops, turbot, King crab, sea urchin and algae. The Juan Fernadez Islands are known for their huge lobsters. Seafood is made into almost everything: stews, ceviches, escabeches, or snacks with potatoes, corn, squash and other vegetables. Many of Chile’s lamb dishes, such as lamb ribs or lamb shish kebabs, baked deer dishes and cakes stem from Welsh influence. Compared to other South American countries Chilean cuisine can be lightly spiced and occasionally bland. Argentina Argentina, meaning "land of silver," is a rich and vast land—second largest (after Brazil) in South America and eighth largest in the world. It is located in Southern South America bordered by Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay and the Atlantic Ocean. Its heartland is a broad grassy plain known as the Pampas. The national cuisine been influenced by waves of European immigration. The Italian culture on the country of Argentina has had considerable influence, Italian food staples such as lasagna, pizza, pasta, and ravioli are commonly seen on the Argentine table, at least in the country's major cities. Argentina is the beef capital of the world. The rich grassland plains of the Pampas, located below the Andes, are home to cattle and sheep, managed by Argentine cowboys called gauchos. The national dish is matambre made from thin flank steak rolled with fillings that include spinach, whole hard boiled eggs, other vegetables, herbs and spices, it is then tied with a string and either poached in broth or baked. Its name is derived from "mata hambre," which means "kill your hunger." Probably the most famous
Argentine dish is the Parrillada, a mixed grill plate of different meats and sausages (chorizos). The meat is cooked on a very large grill called a Parilla. The Argentinean method of spit roasting is also very popular. For this the meat is placed on spits (that look like swords) and are placed tip down into and around hot coals to roast the meats. Classic Argentinean cuisine includes chimichurri sauce (a cross between Mexican salsa and Italian vinaigrette) and the empanada. Argentine also is known in the region for their tortillas, however they are made with potato dough, in contrast to the traditional Mexican corn or flour tortilla. Argentina is the world’s fifth largest producer of wine. The grape varieties are almost entirely of European derivation: Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec are only a few of some 60 different varieties cultivated. Almost 75 percent of the total wine production originates in the Province of Mendoza found in the Andean foothills. Mendoza cultivates its vines on desert flatlands made fertile by irrigated water which descends from the Andes. Although made from European grapes, Argentine wines have a local flavor. This is due to the climate, soil and irrigation methods. There are two varieties that can be considered exclusively Argentinean in quality if not in origin. The first is Malbec, a grape not consider particularly distinguished in France, but considered by many in Argentina to make fine red wine. The second is the Torrontes, a grape of Spanish origin, which makes a superb, full, fruity, rich white wine. Uruguay Uruguay is located on the southeastern coast of South America, and bordered by Brazil, Argentina and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a land of grassy plains and hills. Sheep and cattle ranches make up eighty percent of the land and their food is the result of many influences including gaucho, Spanish, and Italian. In Uruguay, food and meat are almost synonymous. Most restaurants in Uruguay are parrillada (grill-rooms), which specialize in asado (barbecued beef), the country’s most famous dish. Besides beef, pork, sausage and grilled chicken are popular. Chivito (a sandwich filled with slices of meat, lettuce and egg) or puchero (beef with vegetables, bacon, beans and sausages) are local favorites. With the large numbers of Italian immigrants in the 20th century, many businesses opened by Italinas were pasta making factories. They also imported parmesan cheese and prosciutto ham.
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